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Dean J
Updated: 3 min 19 sec ago

CavDog's 8th Birthday and a New Face Around Peabody Hall

June 29, 2015
As CavDog's 8th birthday was approaching, I remember thinking that he seemed to have more fun at this year's Days on the Lawn events than in previous years. CavDog's been coming to DOTL days since he was about 10 months old and always enjoys them, but something was different this year. Meeting students is probably one of his favorite things and more students than ever stopped to say hello to him.

If you saw one of his fetch sessions on the lawn in front of Peabody Hall, you know that CavDog LOVES chasing his tennis ball. One day a few weeks ago, his heart didn't seem into his usual afternoon fetch session. He wasn't too excited about his dinner, either. We took him to the vet, fully expecting them to laugh at me for being overly sensitive.

Unfortunately, things did not go well.

 CavDog had a mass on his spleen that had ruptured. He had an emergency splenectomy and the resulting biopsy revealed that he has hemangiosarcoma. The bad news is that there is no cure for this kind of cancer and it is aggressive. The good news is that we have fantastic vets in Charlottesville and his post-surgery treatment plan hasn't impacted his quality of life. CavDog actually seems to be enjoying the attention he's getting from all of his extra office visits.

We decided that CavDog's 8th birthday was the time to give him something we've been talking about for a long time.

If you follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, this might not be news to you. I posted about CavDog's canine little brother last week. I asked for UVa-inspired name suggestions on Instagram and Facebook and there seems to be a lot of support for Rugby, TJ, or Peabody.

I'll be posting plenty of admission-related content this summer, but I'll include an occasional update for those interested in how CavDog is doing. Rest assured that CavDog, who was pretty spoiled before, is enjoying royal treatment now and his little puppy friend is keeping him active.

A very special thanks to all of the students from the Class of 2019 who gave CavDog the most exciting DOTL season of his life. I have never seen him so happy.

The Class of 2019 is Complete

June 22, 2015
In about half an hour, everyone who opted to remain on the waiting list will receive an email from Dean Roberts letting them know that the Class of 2019 is complete. We won't be making any more offers of admission and it is time to release the waiting list.

I know many of you have been waiting for word for a few weeks. Hopefully, this will help you make preparations for enrollment at your chosen school. You may not be joining us in the fall, but I'm confident that they are going to have a wonderful first year.

Please be sure to check the email account associated with your Common App account for Dean Roberts' email.

Best wishes for a relaxing summer and an exciting start to your college career!

2015-2016 First Year UVa Application Essays

June 8, 2015
Towards the end of every reading season, we gather to talk about which essay questions elicited great responses, which ones could be tweaked to be better, and which essays we'd like to retire. We often pull students into our discussions to get their perspectives. There are some questions on our application that prompt students to write interesting essays year after year, so we don't feel the need to change them. Conversations we have at Days on the Lawn and other admitted student events sometimes come into play as well.

You'll write one essay for the general Common Application and then you'll write two short responses to these prompts along with other questions that are specific to UVa. The Common App folks posted the main essay questions a while ago. Here are ours:

2015-2016 First-Year Application Essay Questions

1.    We are looking for passionate students to join our diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists.  Answer the question that corresponds to the school/program to which you are applying in a half page or roughly 250 words. 
  • College of Arts and Sciences - What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way?
  • School of Engineering and Applied Sciences - U.Va. engineers are working to solve problems that affect people around the world, from our long-term water purification project in South Africa to continuing to research more efficient applications of solar power. However, most students start small, by using engineering to make a difference in daily life. If you were given funding for a small engineering project that would make your everyday life better, what would you do?
  • School of Architecture - Describe an instance or place where you have been inspired by architecture or design.
  • School of Nursing - Discuss experiences that led you to choose the School of Nursing.
  • Kinesiology Program - Discuss experiences that led you to choose the kinesiology major.

2. Answer one of the following questions in a half page or roughly 250 words.
  • What’s your favorite word and why?
  • We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions. Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.
  • Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the U.Va. culture. In her fourth year at U.Va., Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why?
  • U.Va. students paint messages on Beta Bridge when they want to share information with our community. What would you paint on Beta Bridge and why is this your message?
A note about word limits:
We aren't counting words on these. The word limits are there so you know that we are expecting short statements, not term papers. The boxes where you paste in your essay will cut you off at some point, but there is a little bit of leeway. Be concise and thoughtful in your statement statement and try to convey your voice and style in your words. This is the one spot on your application where your personality gets to shine, so don't treat this like a formal school assignment.

We are looking forward to seeing what applicants for the Class of 2020 do with these questions! Good luck with your writing!

As always, I'm happy to answer your questions in the comments.

A Class of 2019 Update

May 26, 2015
A young man in the morning information session was one of the students I got to call about a waiting list offer. He just wanted to say hello before going out on the tour, but it was a good reminder this process still isn't over.

At this point, we have worked through most segments of the class (remember there are ten segments, VA and OOS for each school/program in which first years can enroll) and made some offers. A good portion of those students submit deposits. Some are still working with Student Financial Services to get their financial aid packages. Some have turned us down and we know they are off to wonderful schools in the fall.

It looks like we are pretty close to the usual timeline of having this work finished by early June. As always, once the class is final (meaning we are done making offers), I'll post about it here.

To those who have called, emailed, tweeted, and visited after getting offers, thank you! Seeing your enthusiasm and excitement inspires us as we do this work. We are so lucky to have you in the Class of 2019!

Social Norming, College Admission, and Stress

May 14, 2015
The concept of social norms was emerging when I started my career (I was in student affairs) and isn't really discussed in admission all that much. With a social norms approach, we talk about what is normal instead of what is happening with outliers when discussing behavior or outcomes. I use a social norms approach when talking to students about the college application process and I've been thinking that students could benefit from more widespread use.

I spoke on a panel at a Fairfax County summit on teen stress last weekend and it is so clear to me that many people draw conclusions about the college admission process based on stories they've heard about outliers. Outliers are probably interesting because their stories amaze and excite us. The outliers get so much air time that even the most calm, rational people lose sight of what is normal. If we focused more on norms, maybe there wouldn't be as much pressure to do what the outliers are doing.

Let's look at something as simple as the number of college applications high school students are submitting. This New York Times article says:

...In 1990, just 9 percent of students applied to seven or more colleges. By 2011...that group had risen to 29 percent.
In the class of 2014, according to Naviance, 16.5 percent of seniors using the system said they intended to apply to 11 to 20 colleges.
Flip that around so that the normal behavior is highlighted:

In 2011, 71% of students submitted six or less college applications. In the Class of 2014, 83.5% of students who use Naviance intended on applying to 10 or less colleges 

The data that the Common App puts out about the number of applications the average user submits might help back up the norms approach. They've been putting these charts out for years and the numbers haven't changed all that much. In fact, in our mid-Atlantic region, the average number of applications submitted was lower in 2014 than in 2012 at every kind of high school except the ones with religion affiliations. The number for those schools stayed the same.

It's still interesting to marvel at outliers (that NY Times article cites someone who applied to 56 schools!), but maybe we can take things down a notch by talking more about what is normal.